Catalogue of Welsh Ecclesiastical Seals as known down to A.D. 1600 Part IV: Seals of Cistercian Monasteries By DAVID H. WILLIAMS, M.A., Ph.D., F.S.A. AS they were corporate bodies, the importance attached to their seals was of no less moment in the affairs of monastic communities than in the case of other ecclesiastical institutions. Many are the references to the usage of seals in the statutes of successive General Chapters of the Cistercian Order. This weight attached to the seal was reflected in the instructions laid down for its design and custody, in the provisions for its destruction or mutilation upon the cession of a superior, in the instances quoted of its theft or unlawful retention, and in the problems which stemmed from its false use or mis-use.1 All these factors find illustration in what is known of the employment of seals by the white monks in Wales, and have found description in the Introduction to Part I of this Catalogue.2 It is evident that by the close of the twelfth century, a variety of practice concerning seal design and usage had developed within the Cistercian Order. This led the General Chapter meeting in 1200 to attempt to regularise matters. It did this by ruling that each member abbey was to employ only its abbot's seal, and this was not to bear the abbot's personal name.3 It was further laid down that the seal might take one of two forms for its device. There might be either an effigy of an abbot holding his pastoral staff (Group A below), or else simply his hand clutching the staff (Group B). In the former case the abbot is generally seen standing on a corbel, vested in chasuble or cowl, his right hand holding the staff, his left hand clasping against his chest a book (presumably the Rule of Saint Benedict). The field might be ornamented by the presence of one or more crescents or stars, the significance of which is open to debate. In the second type an abbot's cowled fore- arm is usually depicted, the hand occasionally appears to be gloved with tassels hanging from the wrists, and sometimes the field is broken by a star or crescent, or both. Some monasteries appear not to have observed fully these instructions, for in 1218 the General Chapter ordered any abbey which possessed a common seal to destroy it.4 Cwmhir, therefore, when attaching its abbot's seal to a document (about 1235) felt constrained to explain that 'it is not a custom of our Order to have 1 David H. Williams, Welsh History through Seals (Cardiff, 1982), pp. 4-6, 30-1; Welsh Cistercians (Caldey Island, 1984), I, pp. 75-8, 88; II, pp. 263-5; 'The Seal in the Cistercian Usage with Especial Reference to Wales' in B. Chauvin (edit.), Melanges a la Memoire du Père Anselme Dimier II/3 (Pupillin, Arbois, France; 1984), pp. 249-57. 2 Arch. Camb. CXXXIII (1984), pp. 101-5. 3 C. Clay, 'The Seals of the Religious Houses of Yorkshire' in Archaeologia LXXVIII (1928), p. 7. 4 J.-M. Canivez, Statuta capitulorum generalium ordinis cisterciensis (Louvain, 1933-41), I, pp. 251-2 (1200/15), 487 (1218/17); cf. p. 493 (1218/45).